Les Français à Chicago

Huet - uniquely French but part of The Windy City

(This is Part Two of a two-par series on my trip to the PSG match in Chicago).

I am a Chicagoan through and through. I live, breathe, eat and ‘other things’ Chicago Blackhawks. I live and die by their performances throughout the years. I am really not paying attention to the World Cup right now because I am 100% concentrated on my Hawks. I love the Bears and the Bulls. As far as baseball, I’m a Blue Jays fan, mostly because I come from a “House Divided” (Sox and Cubs).

I love deep dish pizza. Lou Malnati’s and Gino’s East…give it to me anytime. Chicago-style hot dog or an Italian Beef from Portillos, oh yeah. And nobody can truly appreciate Chicago without having a Chicago thin-crust pizza cut in squares or a nice heaping dish of Polish food with sausage and perogies (either meat, cheese or sauerkraut).

This is my home town. And while I live 300 miles away from it right now, it will always be my home. And when I heard that a Ligue 1 team was finally making the trip to play in Chicago, I had to jump on the first opportunity to get there. I was going to purchase a ticket for the game, but, since I was covering it for the website, I asked if I could get press access. And the Chicago Fire, who have always had a great front office staff, was happy to oblige.

When I first arrived in Chicago, I thought that I was just going to report on the game, watch some great football, and then head home. Instead, it was more of an experience that I expected. As I mentioned in the first part of this series, the Fire and PSG gave us great access to the team. That access not only helped us with covering this story, it also helped with getting to know the French folks in Chicago as well, another unexpected surprise.

During my time in whatever city I have lived in, I have always wanted to get involved with the French community, especially those who are die-hard football fans. Yet, every city I travel to, there doesn’t seem to be that many French citizens. And Chicago, being the size that it is, doesn’t exactly have to largest French population as well. But the few folks that I did meet were extremely friendly and open to helping me get to know the French in Chicago.

I first met people from the French Consulate, who were extremely friendly, and would work to get me in touch with other members of Chicago’s French community. They would introduce me to a number of people, who were pretty excited to see that an American was as dedicated to French football as I was.

The French Consulate here were also nice enough to post our post-game press conference with Antoine Kombouare (which I was the only American there actually asking him questions), on their Facebook Page. They also told me about certain soccer organizations that they have in The Windy City. In addition to being involved with helping the US World Cup bid, they told me about “Les Bleus Chicago”, a French organized sports group who plays not only regular soccer, but beach soccer and volleyball. Here is their site as well.

In addition to meeting the local French “movers and shakers”, I was also able to meet some of the PSG fans from the area. While there were some from as far away as New York, the small group of PSG supporters that were sitting in their own little section (about 1/10th the size of the Red Star group) had a number of Chicago residents in it as well. In addition to meeting some new people in the stands, it was nice to also meet people who are regulars of our site as well.

While meeting the all these people was simply amazing, talking to Kombouare  as he was waiting for his players to enter the bus was even more special. He and I talked for about five minutes. We did talk mostly about Jallet and Giuly, but I asked him what he thought of Chicago. He said he loved it. He also said that it is a shame that when many European teams want to visit the US, they want to go to Miami, Los Angeles, New York or, my ‘second’ hometown I guess you can call it, Orlando. He said that more teams should go to Chicago. Both the players, staff and French media that I met during the entire trip were very happy with “Our Town”. Many that I spoke to said that they plan on taking a vacation to Chicago soon.

So, while Chicago might not have the biggest of French communities, they do have a great community. Not only were they uniquely French, but they also seemed to have a bit of Midwestern friendliness in them as well, which is something I always miss when I am not back home.

And while I love France, its people and its culture, Antti Niemi is a better goaltender than Cristobal Huet!

Go Hawks!

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One Response

  1. In addition, the French in Chicago are going to have a big watch party for the Uruguay vs. France game at Daley Plaza in downtown Chicago, on June 11th at 1:30. So if you are in the Chicagoland area and want to hang around a few people (more than a few actually) that are interested in watching some football, they will have some HUGE screens up to watch the same.

    Go to their site that we have listed on the right for more information.

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